Chapter 8 Greece: Searching for the Good Life

Download 98.66 Kb.
Size98.66 Kb.
Chapter 8
Greece: Searching for the Good Life
What's your definition of "the good life"? Having pizza and cold drinks while you watch a movie with your friends? An ancient Greek could probably relate.
Ancient Greeks loved the good life. They went to the theatre with friends, read entertaining poetry, and relaxed with a good meal. They especially enjoyed the freedom to do as they pleased. So they began a remarkable experiment. They created revolutionary laws, literature, and political systems. They gave people new rights and freedoms. They gave the individual dignity.
The ancient Greek civilization lasted for only a few centuries, but its efforts to make life easy and more enjoyable for individuals have been admired and imitated ever since. In this chapter, you will see why the ancient Greek way of life still stands--more than 2500 years later--as a model for achieving the good life.


Land of the Sea
The land of ancient Greece was tiny. Look at the map inside the front cover of this book, and you will see how small it was compared with the lands of other ancient civilizations.
Ancient Greek civilization developed in the southern tip of the Baltic Peninsula and on the many Greek islands dotting the Aegean Sea--a total area only about twice the size of Vancouver Island. The Greek lands are rugged and mountainous with few rivers and little rainfall. The only good farmland lies in small pockets nestled in valleys and on islands.
Greece's earliest settlers--northern people--enjoyed Greece's warm, dry climate. They found the hilly country to be ideal for raising sheep and goats. And crops grew easily on the small patches of farmland. These crops included grains, olives, and grapes.
The Greek lands were rich in natural resources. The early settlers found plenty of timber and stone for building. They also found copper, silver, obsidian, and tin. The ancient Greeks used these valuable materials for making tools and for trading with other societies. Greece's best geographic asset, however, was its seacoast. Its many natural harbours provided protection for boats, and access to a plentiful fishery.
Boxed material

Natural resources are materials found in nature that humans can put to use.

End of boxed material
Boxed material

A Mediterranean climate is a climate made milder by a large body of water. In winter, the warmth from the water keeps the harshest weather away. In summer, cool breezes refresh the land.

End of boxed material
Map: Greece was home to the first civilization in Europe. It had a warm, dry, Mediterranean [me-dih-tuh-RAY-nee-un] climate, access to the sea, and pockets of fertile farmland. These conditions set the stage for a wealthy, well-organized society. Locate another place on this map that offers the same conditions.

Map is included with tactiles.

A Civilization of City-States

Because farmland was limited to isolated pockets in Greece's mountainous lands, the earliest Greek settlements developed as small, independent communities cut off from one another. Each independent city had a hinterland--the surrounding farmland that provided the city with food. Each had access to the sea. Each had everything required to

function as a mini-country: its own government, its own laws, and its own army. These self-governing cities are called city-states.
The main Greek city-states were Athens [ATH-enz], Sparta [SPAR-tuh], Corinth, Delphi [DEL-fee], Olympia [uh-LIMP-ee-uh], and Argos [AR-GOS]. You can find these on the map above. At the height of ancient Greece's civilization, Athens and Sparta were the largest and most influential city-states. Many smaller ones existed, as well. Travel and communication between city-states were difficult.
Why do we talk about ancient Greece as one civilization when it was really just a collection of mini-countries? The connection was in the culture. Even though the Greek people were loyal to their own city-state, the Greek customs and traditions were shared by all. All ancient Greeks worshipped the same gods, and spoke the same language. All Greeks shared an ancestry and a way of life, so they felt a strong bond despite their individual differences. Though the various city-states sometimes fought each other, they also banded together for protection.
Boxed material

The ancient Greeks called themselves "Hellenes" [HEL-eenz] and their country "Hellas"

[HEL-os]. It was the Romans who called them "Greek." The ancient Greeks called all people who were not Greek barbarians [bar-BAIR-ee-unz], which means "foreigners." The term came to mean "uncultured people."

End of boxed material

Map: Ancient Greece: By building trading ships, the ancient Greeks could trade with each other as well as the other communities on the Mediterranean Sea. The sea also acted as a barrier between the Greek islands and powerful neighbours. How would Greece's isolated sea location have been a disadvantage?

Map is included with tactiles.

Try This
When we look at the past, we see patterns in the way landforms and climate affected where people settled, what work they did, and how they lived. Use the information in this section to help you answer the following questions.

  1. What features of the physical environment of Greece were advantages and which were drawbacks?

  2. What occupations would you expect to find among people who relied on the sea as much as the ancient Greeks did?

  3. How did the physical environment influence travel and communication between the different city-states?

  4. How did the physical environment contribute to the development of city-states?

Boxed material

The Romans gave the Mediterranean its name, which means "the sea in the centre of the world." What does this tell you about the importance of the Mediterranean to the early southern Europeans?

End of boxed material

Traders and Warriors
Every city-state had only a small amount of good farmland. As the city-states grew, they needed more land and food to support their growing populations. Some city-states conquered neighbouring lands. Others sent ships in search of unsettled lands around the Mediterranean. Many Greeks settled in the best spots to begin colonies [KOL-uh-neez]. Colonies are distant settlements under the political control of a colonizing nation, in this case a city-state. The new settlements were able to raise enough food that they could feed themselves and use their surplus crops to trade with their ruling city-state.
The colonies and trading routes that the ancient Greeks established provided them with the food and other goods they needed for a comfortable life. Grain and cloth were imported from colonies and countries to the east. In exchange, the ancient Greeks traded olive oil, wine, fine metals, and pottery.
Ancient Greece was only one of a number of early seagoing cultures that grew up around the Mediterranean. The peoples living around this great sea traded, formed partnerships, and exchanged knowledge. But they also fought each other for the same valuable resources in long and destructive wars.


Picture: The ancient Greeks built powerful warships that gave them a huge advantage during wartime conflicts. The warship shown here, a trireme [TRY-reem], was the fastest vessel of the time, powered by the strength of 170 rowers. It had a wooden ram built below the waterline. The Greeks would crash this ram into the side of an enemy ship so it would sink.
Conflicts between nations or city-states can have enormous consequences. For example, they can end peaceful trade, kill thousands, and destroy cultures. Read about one of the following important wars of the ancient Greeks:

  • The Trojan War

  • The Persian Wars

  • The Peloponnesian [pel-uh-puh-NEE- zhun] War

  • The Campaign of Alexander the Great

Use your research to write a newspaper article about the conflict. Your article should answer the questions What? Who? Where? When? Why and How? Finish by describing the outcome of the war, and how it affected ancient Greece.

Life in the City-States

The ancient Greek city-states were bustling places. Each was a thriving centre of the arts, religion, commerce, and politics. A strong, high wall encircled each city, keeping attackers and wild animals out. Inside the wall, built on top of a hill, was a fort, called an acropolis

[uh-KROP-uh-lis]. The residents built their houses close together around the foot of the acropolis for protection.
Boxed material

The ancient Greeks believed that the state should be small enough that people would know their fellow citizens and be able to reach any place in the state within a day's walking.

End of boxed material
The centre of the Greek city-state--and the place where everything was happening--was the agora [AGAIN-UH-RUH]. This was the public square and marketplace combined. Surrounding it were temples, law courts, and public buildings.
The streets of ancient Greek cities were narrow and crowded. None of the cities had sewage systems, and garbage was thrown into the streets. Not everything about ancient Greece was what we think of as "civilized."
The people lived in simple homes. Even the wealthy lived in plain houses built of mud bricks with earthen floors. At the centre of each home was a courtyard with an altar where the family offered prayers to their many gods and goddesses. Men and women lived in separate parts of the house.
The people of the city-states worked at the many jobs the city provided, as craftspeople, builders, traders, farmers, and fishers. Slaves lived and worked in almost all households, doing most of the cleaning, shopping, cooking, and sewing. Under Greek law, owners could not mistreat their slaves. In some cases, slaves were allowed to buy their freedom if they received and saved a tiny wage.
Boxed material

The ancient Greeks called the household the oikos. It is the source of our word ecology. What connection do you see between the two words?

End of boxed material
Growing Up in Ancient Greece

If you had been born in ancient Greece, your life would have been very different depending on whether you were a girl or a boy, a slave or a citizen, wealthy or poor, young or old, married or widowed, an Athenian or a Spartan. (Sparta, as you'll see, was unlike any of the other city-states.)

Unless you lived in Sparta, here is what life would have been like for you if your parents were citizens of a city-state.
Boxed material

Reading Hint
As you read the next page, think about how life can differ depending on who you are, and what stage of life you're at.

End of boxed material

Age 0-6: Childhood

Your chances of growing up at all are better if your family is wealthy. If your father can't afford to feed you, he has the right to abandon you. If someone decides to take you in, you may be raised as a slave.

Age 6-14: School Days

If you're a girl, you do not go out to school. Your mother teaches you reading, writing, arithmetic, and the skills you'll need to run a household. If you're a boy, your school day lasts from sunrise to sunset. You learn reading, writing, poetry, arithmetic, drawing, and painting.

Age 14-16: Early Responsibilities

If you're a boy, your schooling ends, and your physical training begins. You spend the day working out at the public gym, playing sports, and running. If you're a girl, you marry the man your father chooses for you. Your father gives you a dowry--money, slaves, and cloth to take with you to your husband's home. Your husband is probably twice your age. Young men are expected to be soldiers for much of their early adulthood, so they aren't allowed to marry young.

Age 18-21: Reaching Adulthood

If you're a young woman, you are now a wife and mother. You spend your days at home, running the household. If you're a young man, you start your military service, which lasts for two years. You learn the art of war and good citizenship.

Adult Life

If you are a young man, you become a citizen at age 21. You live an active life, working, staying fit, and discussing politics. You attend festivals, the theatre, and sporting events. At age 30, you marry, but you spend little time with your wife and children. If you are a young woman, your life remains the same until your husband dies. You gain respect for the skill with which you raise your children, care for your husband, and manage your slaves.

A Closer Look
Sports as Part of Daily Life
If you are a sports-minded male, you would have felt right at home in ancient Greece. The ancient Greeks idolized physical health and strength, and young men were expected to keep themselves as fit as possible. Physical training was part of every young man's education. It was considered just as important as intellectual pursuits such as reading, writing, and mathematics.
The ancient Greeks valued sports, both as training for warfare and as a way of honoring the gods. They built gymnasiums for working out, and stadiums for competitions. Their athletic festivals attracted competitors from all over the ancient Greek world.
The most important athletic festival was the Olympic Games. All the Greek city-states took part in the games, which were held once every four years. The ancient Greeks even halted wars to allow their athletes to compete in the Olympic Games. People were expected to set aside their grudges and compete on the playing field instead of the battlefield. How are the modern Olympic Games similar?
Women could not take part in the Olympic Games, or even attend to watch. They had their own athletic contests. The most important of these were games held to honour the goddess Hera.
Historians decided that the Classical Age of ancient Greece--the period when ancient Greek civilization reached its height--began in 776 BCE. This was the year that ancient Greece held its first Olympic Games.
Picture: After a break of about 2000 years, the first modern Olympics were held in 1896 in Athens, where they were held in ancient times. Today the Olympics are held in a different place once every four years. Why would people have wanted to revive this ancient tradition?


Think For Yourself
Identify three reasons the ancient Greeks pursued physical fitness. Think of at least three reasons Canadians do so. How are the reasons alike and different?
Life in Sparta

Life was different in Sparta than in all the other city-states. In Sparta, loyalty to the state was of utmost importance. All Spartan citizens were expected to contribute to the military strength of the city. Toughness and discipline were the most admired characteristics in both men and women. From the age of 7 to the age of 20, all boys served as soldiers. Even as adults, men were expected to spend most of their time training and living with other soldiers.

In Spartan society, bearing children was highly respected as a great duty and accomplishment because it helped the state survive. Spartan women were also admired for raising their children to be strong and disciplined, and devoted to serving the state. Girls were expected to take part in athletic training so that they would have healthy children.
Boxed material

Spartans rejected all the comforts of life so they would be better prepared to defend their homeland. We still call a life that lacks comfort a Spartan existence.

End of boxed material
Women: Citizens with Few Rights
In ancient Greece, as in most ancient civilizations, women had few rights. People called this the will of the gods. They believed the gods expected men to rule over women, children, and slaves. Women were not allowed to participate in politics. They could not buy or sell anything. Nor could they lend money or own property. They did not have a right to take someone to court.
A woman in ancient Greece had one major responsibility: running her household. She directed the work of the slaves, made the clothes, cooked the food, and raised her children. She gave her daughters as much education as she could. (Boys went out to school.)
A Greek woman could go out to attend the theatre and religious festivals, if her husband gave her permission, and if he agreed to accompany her. If a woman's husband died before her, his property went to his sons, though the woman kept her dowry. Her husband's will might name a new husband for her. If not, she returned to her father or another male relative.
The situation was quite different in Sparta than in the other ancient Greek city-states. Here, a woman could own property, represent herself in court, and take part in political decisions. Women probably had more freedoms in Sparta because the men were often away at war or in military training, so the women had to run things.

Boxed material

Part of a Spartan mother's duty to the state was to punish her sons if they showed any signs of weakness or cowardice.

End of boxed material

Boxed material

Some important Greek thinkers did not fully agree with the lack of rights for women. The famous Greek philosopher Plato wrote, "If women are to have the same duties as men, they must have the same education."

End of boxed material
Picture: This artifact shows that women of all classes had household duties.

All ancient Greek women did household work. Nonetheless, they enjoyed a much better life than slaves, both male and female, who performed the hardest tasks.

Try This
Draw a "power web" for ancient Greece. On a page, scatter the words female citizen, female slave, male slave, male citizen, and children. Then draw arrows showing who has power over whom. How would you describe the power structure?


Birthplace of Democracy
In most ancient civilizations, people had little say in their lives. Everyone followed rigid social rules. Rulers thought of ordinary people not as a collection of individuals, but as a group. This group was useful for building monuments, growing food, and paying taxes. As individuals, ordinary people just didn't count. Only the very powerful enjoyed true freedom.
From very early times, the ancient Greeks thought differently. They believed that all male Greek citizens--both rich and poor--had rights. Every Greek man enjoyed the same right to speak for himself, to be fairly treated, to take part in decisions, and to vote. Instead of being ruled by a monarch or a dictator, the ancient Greeks believed the people should choose rulers and vote on matters themselves. Here we have the beginnings of democracy

[diph-MOK-ruh-see]--rule by the people.

Boxed material

The word democracy joins two Greek terms: demos, "people," and kratos, "rule"--in other words, "rule by the people."

End of boxed material
We don't know for sure why the ancient Greeks had such a different view of the individual. It may have been because ancient Greece was a collection of relatively small, self-governing city-states rather than a large country, like Egypt. At first, most power was in the hands of a few rich landowners. Over time, however, the rich came to rely more and more on soldiers and traders, who wanted more rights for themselves. Because the early city-states were small, every person would have had a role in ensuring the group's survival. Because every person was valued, the ancient Greeks may have seen the benefit of granting individual rights.
Boxed material

The Greek view that women should not have political rights endured for more than 2000 years. Even in Canada, women only received the right to vote in 1918.

End of boxed material
Picture: Many people in the world still do not have the right to vote that the ancient Greeks first pioneered 2500 years ago. Sometimes democratic rights are not respected. For example, the people of East Timor [TEE-mor], such as the man in this photograph, were brutalized by gangs of thugs who disliked the outcome of a democratic vote about independence.


Ancient Stories
Prometheus and the Gift of Fire

Every culture has myths that help people understand how they came to be on earth, and how they came to acquire certain blessings. This ancient Greek myth shows both how humans were created, and how they acquired fire. Some myths also reveal the values of a society. As you read, think about the struggle of Prometheus [pruh-MEE-thee-us]. What does his battle with Zeus [ZOOS] tell us about what ancient Greeks valued?
The gloriously horrible Titans [TITE-unz] were borne of the gods Gaea [GAY-uh] and Uranus [yuh-RANE-us]. Prometheus, the wisest of the Titans, had always been loyal to the god Zeus, the supreme ruler of the universe. All that was to change.
One day, Zeus gave Prometheus the task of creating human beings out of mud. When Prometheus looked at his creations, he couldn't help but feel pity for them, for they seemed so small and helpless. Surely they would wither and die when they faced the great forces of nature. Prometheus decided to help them stay alive--he would give them fire. With fire, people would be able to keep wild animals away and cook their food.
But Prometheus did not own fire--the gods owned it. Nonetheless, Prometheus was determined to deliver his gift. He waited for many days until the gods were not looking. And then he stole a red-hot coal.
When Zeus found out what Prometheus had done, he went into a rage and tore at his hair. Prometheus would have to be punished! How could he be punished though? As a Titan, Prometheus was immortal--he would never die.
After many days, Zeus thought of a punishment that would be even worse than death. He sent his servants to chain Prometheus to a rock. "You dared to steal from me," he roared as his victim struggled in vain. "Now you will suffer for all eternity."


On Zeus's command, a terrible eagle flew down to the rock where Prometheus was chained. And as the great Titan pulled at his chains, the gigantic bird tore open his belly and yanked out his liver. That night, as Prometheus lay shivering in the cold, he was miraculously healed.
But the next day, the eagle returned and repeated his horrible task. And the next night Prometheus was again healed. And so it went.
Zeus offered to free Prometheus in exchange for a secret that only Prometheus knew. But Prometheus refused to tell his secret. Day after day, year after year, his will never weakened.
Hercules [HER-kyuh-leez], the half-human son of Zeus, saw how the brave Titan suffered, all because he had given fire to humans. He admired the Titan for refusing to give in to Zeus. One day, Hercules waited till the eagle landed on the rock. And then the strongest hero in the world caught the eagle and killed it. He smashed the chains that bound Prometheus; they broke apart as though they were made of straw.
Prometheus had succeeded in giving the valuable gift of fire to the mortals he pitied. He had endured long and terrible suffering because he had refused to give in to the will of Zeus. And now he was free. Yet in his heart, Prometheus had always been free.


Think For Yourself

Both Prometheus and Hercules are heroic characters in ancient Greek mythology. By looking at their characters and deeds, we can get an idea of the qualities admired by the ancient Greeks.

  • Describe Prometheus's battle of wills with Zeus using the words "individual" and "supreme ruler."

  • What does the story reveal about Greece's ideas concerning the individual?

Boxed material

Canadian society is too large for everyone to have a direct voice in all government decisions, so we elect representatives to speak for us (city councillors, for example).

End of boxed material

Democracy in Athens
In most ancient Greek city-states, all free men and women were citizens. But out of 350,000 people living in Athens in the fifth century BCE, only 20,000 were male citizens. In Athens, women were considered to be citizens but without political rights.
Slaves and people from other city-states were not considered citizens, so they had no political rights. Slaves did enjoy some basic human rights. They could not be severely punished, and some could expect a small wage, which they could spend or save to buy their freedom. Former slaves would have been treated like people born outside the city-state--they were free to come and go, but had no other rights.
Athens was the largest and most powerful of the city-states. It was in Athens that the boldest form of government "by the people" appeared.
The Athenian democracy had two parts: the Assembly and the Council. All male citizens belonged to the Assembly, which made the laws of the land. They were expected to attend regular meetings to discuss and vote on public matters. If a meeting of the Assembly didn't have 6000 citizens present, police were sent out to round up more. The police used a rope dipped in red paint to shame the dawdlers.
The Council was made up of 500 citizens chosen every year by lot--names were drawn from all Athenian citizens. Members served for one year. The council did all the legwork, preparing laws for the Assembly to consider.
Athenian citizens were also expected to serve as jurors in court cases. A typical jury had from two hundred to four hundred members. There were no judges or lawyers. Citizens argued their own cases.
Boxed material

The next time you get "roped in" to do something, you'll know where the phrase comes from.

End of boxed material


Picture: The Assembly voted on laws and policies prepared by the Council.
All male citizens were expected to attend the meeting of the Assembly.

The Assembly could exile unpopular or dishonest leaders. If at least 6000 citizens voted to remove a citizen from office, he would be sent out of the city for 10 years.

The Assembly elected government officials and military generals. This meant that even the poorest male citizen might find himself as a leader in the government.

Red paint revealed who had to be dragged to the assembly to do their duty.

Think For Yourself
In Canada, we follow the democratic model of government first attempted by Athens 25 centuries ago. But there are many differences. Make a four-column table like the one begun below comparing the Canadian and Athenian systems of democracy. For each system, describe who qualifies as citizens, who can elect representatives, who can vote about laws, how many levels of government there are, how court cases are decided, and how unpopular leaders are dealt with. For each comparison, decide which system you think is better and why.

The table format is changed to outline format.

Points of Comparison

Who qualifies as citizens?

Athenian system of democracy

All free men and women. Not slaves.

Canadian system of democracy

All adults.

Which works better? Why?

Canadian system works better because it's fair to all adults.

Many Greek citizens feared that too much democracy could be a bad thing. Here is how one unhappy Athenian described his doubts about the new political freedoms in his land.
Everywhere the best people are opposed to democracy, because among the best element [the rich] there is least excess and injustice, and most self-discipline to useful ends. Among the [ordinary] people, on the other hand, ignorance is at its height, as well as disorder and vulgarity. For poverty, lack of education, and in some cases the ignorance which arises from lack of money lead them more to unseemly conduct ...
... as it is, any scoundrel who pleases can getup, say his say, and get what is good for him and his like. It might well be asked, "What that is good for himself or for the state would such a man know?" But the people know that this man's ignorance, commonness, and good will profit them more than the virtue, wisdom, and disaffection of the conservative [the rich].

From John Trueman. The Enduring Past: Revised Edition, Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1967, p. 128

Try This
Giving speeches was an important part of life for citizens of ancient Greece. Put yourself back in time. Prepare a speech about democracy to give at the Assembly. Either agree with the view of democracy given in the Perspectives feature or oppose it.
HOW TO ...

Give a Persuasive Speech
A lot of people get nervous at the thought of speaking in front of others. It's only natural. Try to remember that the members of your audience are just like you--when it's their turn, they'll be nervous too.
You'll notice that people who are enthusiastic about a topic usually have no problems talking about it. How can you get enthusiastic? First, find a topic that really interests you. Second, get prepared. Comfortable speakers know their topic inside and out.
Here are some pointers for preparing a speech designed to persuade people to see your point of view.

  1. Know exactly what you want to say. Sum up your position in one sentence.

  2. Create a series of arguments to support your main idea. Ask yourself if each point you make supports your main idea.

  3. Build support for your position by giving your listeners facts, examples, and details.

  4. Find out about other points of view. In your speech, show how these arguments are wrong. If you don't, your listeners may think you're avoiding the tough questions.

  5. Remember that the way you present your ideas is as important as the ideas themselves. Enthusiasm can be very convincing. Try not to act angry or sarcastic about the opposing point of view. Be honest, and your listeners will have more respect for your argument, even if they disagree.

  6. Practise, practise, practise. Then, before you start speaking, take a deep breath and relax.

A Life of the Mind
Boxed material

The ancient Greeks called their search for knowledge philosophy [fih-LOS-uh-fee] from philo-, meaning "love of," and -sophy, meaning "wisdom."

End of boxed material
Have you ever wondered about the meaning of life, how people should live together, why things turn out one way and not another? If you have, you are thinking about things that fascinated the ancient Greeks.
The ancient Greeks questioned everything in the universe. They valued knowledge and wisdom above everything else. Ancient Greek society honoured and glorified their philosophers just as much as they did their great athletes and warriors. They believed that it was a noble thing to seek wisdom because only through wisdom can one find the best ways to live.
So much of the Canadian way of life first appeared in ancient Greece that it is hard to name them all. Our democratic system of government, competitive sports, styles of architecture, ways of thinking and discussing, entertainment, literature, science, and mathematics--all these were influenced by the achievements of the ancient Greeks. Here are some of their most important discoveries.
Mathematics and Science
Most ancient cultures created myths to explain the things they did not understand. The ancient Greeks had myths, too, but they also attempted to find realistic explanations for the way things happened in the world and the universe. They believed that they could learn about the nature of things by using reason--they observed nature and asked questions. Reason became the basis of our method of scientific research.
The ancient Greeks made great discoveries in biology, mathematics, astronomy, and geography. They developed an advanced form of geometry, which they used to calculate the circumference [sur-KUM-frunce] of the Earth almost exactly. This means that they knew the Earth was round--knowledge that was lost for many centuries. The ancient Greeks were also far ahead of their time in suggesting that the Earth revolved around the Sun. At the time, most people believed that the Sun, moon, and stars all revolved around the Earth.
Boxed material

The circumference of a sphere is the distance around it at its widest point.

End of boxed material

Boxed material

When Rome conquered ancient Greece, most Greek ideas about living disappeared or were changed. About 1500 years later, Europeans rediscovered the early writings of the Greeks, and enthusiastically embraced these ancient ideas as their own.

End of boxed material

The ancient Greeks were among the earliest people to make a distinction between medicine and both magic and religion. One of their most famous physicians was Hippocrates [hih-POK-ruh-teez]. He rejected the view that disease was sent as punishment from the gods. He


believed that diseases had causes that could be treated. He and other ancient Greek physicians did not know much about diseases and their causes. In fact most of their speculations were plain wrong. It was their approach that was so influential.
Illustration: The Hippocratic Oath.

I swear ... that according to my ability, I will keep this oath: ... to follow that system of treatment which I believe will help my patients, and to refrain from anything that is harmful to them. I will give no deadly drug if I am asked to do so, nor will I recommend any such thing. ...

Hippocrates thought that all doctors should take this oath to guarantee that they would be honest and earnest in treating their patients. Doctors today still take the Hippocratic Oath when they graduate from medical school.
Arts and Architecture
All people had humble homes. Nonetheless, to be a citizen of ancient Greece was to live a life surrounded by great works of art. Instead of palaces for the rich, the ancient Greeks built magnificent theatres, temples, political buildings, and other public gathering places, attending the theatre, temple, or agora was all part of a citizen's daily routine.
All ancient Greek public buildings were decorated with fine sculptures and murals. Sculpture was the finest of the Greek arts. The ancient Greeks admired the human form, and tried to capture it perfectly in their statues.
Boxed material

Ancient Greek and Roman architecture styles have long been known together as classical architecture.

End of boxed material
Picture: The British Museum in London, England, was built to look like the Parthenon, the Acropolis of Athens. What similarities do you see in these two buildings?


Literature and Drama
The ancient Greeks built large theatres so that everyone in the city could attend. Plays were performed as part of religious festivals. People would spend the whole day at the theatre watching several plays--both comedies and tragedies. Like modern plays, they had directors, actors, costumes, and scenery. They also had a narrator in the form of a chorus--a group of people who commented on the action of the play by singing about it. Because ancient Greek plays tended to deal with universal issues, many are still performed and their plots copied.
Boxed material

The themes of ancient Greek stories and plays became the models for European writing. Shakespeare, for example, wrote tragedies, as did the ancient Greek playwrights.

End of boxed material
The ancient Greeks gave the world the first alphabet that had both consonants and vowels. It was this alphabet that developed into the Roman alphabet, which we use today to write English.
The Greek language spread throughout the Mediterranean as a language of trade. It was also the common language of the early Christians.
Chart: The ancient Greeks didn't just give us words; they gave us the ideas behind the words. From the words in this chart, what interests can you see that we share with the ancient Greeks?
Boxed material

Greek English

Greek Word, Pronunciation, Equivalent

H, schole, school

, physika, physics

, galaxia, galaxy

, atomon, atom

, harmonia, harmony

, stadion, stadium


Try This
Make a Greek word tree. Start by writing a two-part word that comes to us from Greek, such as autograph, biology, microphone, or hemisphere, at the bottom of a page. Attach a new ending to the first part (autocrat) and a new beginning to the second part (telegraph). Now break each of your new words into two pieces and see if you can repeat the process (automobile and democrat; telephone and pictograph). See how big you can make your tree, making up your own new words if you run out of real words.

Think For Yourself
Identify three ancient Greek innovations you read about in this section. Think about how they affect us today in everyday ways.
Looking Back
In this chapter, you have seen how the ancient Greeks lived and what they valued. Do you agree with the ancient Greeks that knowledge and wisdom are more valuable than anything else? How can knowledge and wisdom make life better for all people in society?
Download 98.66 Kb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2023
send message

    Main page